Brad Boxberger is a free-agent option for the St. Louis Cardinals and while he’s coming off a strong season, there is certainly risk.
It has become an increasingly real possibility that the St. Louis Cardinals invest in cheaper options to upgrade their bullpen.
No longer are the Cardinals expected to be a threat to sign Joe Kelly, one of the top free-agent relievers on the market. There is still a possibility they could sign Ryan Tepera and Collin McHugh, who are two talented relievers coming off strong seasons, and both would represent meaningful upgrades.
But one option that Katie Woo of The Athletic recently presented is former Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brad Boxberger — and while he is not a household name, would be a very strong addition for the Cardinals.
In Milwaukee, Boxberger established himself as their No. 3 reliever behind Josh Hader and Devin Williams. He filled their “Corey Knebel role” – a presence in the seventh or eighth inning – who could enter and shut down games. He did it in a different way than Knebel, of course, since he is not an overpowering pitcher, but Boxberger posted a 3.34 ERA in 64.2 innings last season.
While those numbers are strong, and his 3.52 career ERA is equally strong, there is one pressing concern: his workload. His 64.2 innings were tied for the most of his career and were more than his previous two seasons combined (44.2). At age-33, there has to be some concern that he may struggle bouncing back from such a workload, and that could give the Cardinals – or any other team pursuing Boxberger – some hesitation.
If the Cardinals do sign Boxberger, they could alleviate some of that risk by signing Tepera. That way Tepera could pitch the eighth or ninth inning while Boxberger stays in the seventh inning. It’s one option, of course, but one that the Cardinals should consider pursuing while understanding that Boxberger’s 2021 workload makes him a candidate for regression.